Sunday, January 28, 2007

Gumbleton not ousted for condemning abuse, Detroit Catholic archdiocese says

The Detroit News reported today that:

Archdiocese of Detroit officials disputed reports today that they forced Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton from running St. Leo's Catholic Church parish.

"It is not for a bishop to put conditions on retiring," said Ned McGrath, the archdiocese's spokesman. "If you retire, it is accepted. You are not being forced out. We took him at his word."

The outspoken Gumbleton is 77 years old, and church law requires bishops to retire at 75 years old, McGrath said. However, there is no law requiring retiring bishops to remove themselves from all of their church's leadership.

Gumbleton last year stated he wanted to retire, but he wanted to stay on to run the parish on a yearly basis, McGrath said. But in accepting the resignation, Pope Benedict XVI informed Gumbleton he had to resign from all posts, McGrath said. Gumbleton does not want to do this and in a Jan. 21 Mass at St. Leo's Catholic Church stated he was being ousted for speaking out against priests who molest children.

Last year in Columbus Ohio, Gumbleton testified that the statute of limitations on such sexual assaults needs to be extended. He also said he was molested as a child by a clergyman. Those statements are the real reason he is leaving, Gumbleton said to St. Leo's parishioners during the address.

"It's certainly not my will," Gumbleton said during the Mass, which was videotaped by a parishioner and then streamed on the National Catholic Reporter Web site. "I did not choose to leave St. Leo's. It was something forced upon me."

Gumbleton also said he was right to speak out about sex abuse and the clergy.

"I do not regret what I did," he said during the Mass as the parishioners stood and applauded.

Ann Steffy, who occasionally worships at St. Leo's, is among the more than 1,000 people who have signed a petition demanding that Gumbleton stay at St. Leo's. She said removing him, even if he had resigned, smacks of officials getting back at Gumbleton for his comments.

"They can cop to the rules, which can be bent," Steffy said.

In a letter sent to area media, Steffy, of Royal Oak, said church officials should let Gumbleton stay.

"Bishop Thomas Gumbleton is being banished from St. Leo's where he serves the poor and the peaceful and speaks truth to power," she wrote. "Perhaps the Roman Catholic Church is more concerned with power than with truth?"

McGrath said officials are not looking to penalize Gumbleton for his comments. Gumbleton previously has preached contrary to church doctrine by embracing gays and calling for women to be ordained as priests.

Gumbleton's last day at St. Leo's was to be Jan. 20. But Gumbleton indicated he wanted to stay to officials in the months leading up to that date, McGrath said.

Unlike priests, bishops answer directly to the pope and must abide by his retirement decisions. Priests who retire can ask their bishop or cardinal to be allowed to remain in a parish in some capacity.

McGrath said the archdiocese took extra steps to ensure Gumbleton's departure was smooth. For example, he said Gumbleton asked for letters from the archdiocese for St. Leo's parishioners explaining why he was leaving.

The archdiocese delivered 300 copies of a letter to the parish on Jan. 22 and on Jan. 17, Bishop John Quinn participated in a two-hour meeting with members of St. Leo's Parish Council.

During the Jan. 21 Mass, Gumbleton said he was surprised by the letter to parishioners and had not seen it before it was distributed, according to the videotape.

The complete story may be found here:


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